Three enterprising individuals, including one from Nagpur, in the age group of 23 to 25 are all set to transform and revolutionize the supply of blood to patients in remote, rural areas. They will be using drones to deliver not just blood but also vaccines, emergency medicines, anti-snake venom serum, and life-saving equipment like defibrillators to patients. One of the major targets of the firm, Bloodstream, is reaching blood to women with post-delivery bleeding.
With 19 successful deliveries already made in rural areas of Karnataka, West Bengal and Nepal, Bloodstream has proven its worth. Anshul Sharma, cofounder and CEO of Air Aid Pvt Ltd, which runs Bloodstream, told TOI that the company will help state and national governments make rapid, on demand, cross country deliveries of blood and medicines, and increase their access to rural population by responding in real time.
Bloodstream has tied up with Dr Harish Warbhe, director of Lifeline Blood Bank in city, for supply to Vidarbha and Maharashtra. Lemon Ideas has provided a fillip to Bloodstream by incubating the company.
Bloodstream’s chief technical officer and co-founder Arunabha Bhattacharya from West Bengal says that ‘Magnum’ (the company’s in-house drone) meets all the safety standards announced recently by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “There are no chances of any interference with normal air traffic, as we would be flying much lower, and in areas where there is no air traffic. Ours is Asia’s first medical drone delivery system,” he said.
Rishab Gupta, chief financial officer, said Bloodstream will be able to integrate itself into the Maharashtra health supply chain by March 2019, and plans to start operations and deliver blood and medicines by mid-2019. West Bengal and Nepal are next on the radar.
Sharma, who did his engineering from Singapore, says that in India millions of units of blood are discarded every year because of limited shelf life after donation, and the lack of cold-chain infrastructure required for transport and storage in rural and remote areas. On the other hand, India has an annual shortfall of 3 million units of blood. Lack of timely availability of blood, plasma or platelets often becomes the cause for maternal mortality and deaths in cases of blood loss.
There are just 2,708 blood banks, which roughly translate to one blood bank for 4.7 million Indians. Sharma says that blood inventory problem cannot be solved solely by building more blood banks since wastage increases with each additional blood bank. However, this is where the logistical revolution comes in handy.
Bloodstream uses its drones, data science, and cloud-based inventory management system to solve this complex logistical problem. It provides blood on demand to remote and inaccessible areas, with predictive inventory patterns to leapfrog all challenges. The drone works on GPS based technology and is completely autonomous.
“We are a team of three like the three idiots, who believe that this is the right time to launch our project. Two years earlier, or later, would not have clicked. We had been researching together in our own fields. There have been some frustrating times, but things have been great otherwise. It is the right time also because DGCA has released the drone regulations just a week back,” said Sharma. All three founders have left good job opportunities abroad to follow this dream.
In fact, one of the three entrepreneurs, Bhattacharya has worked as OSD of National Technical Research Organisation and its intelligence wing. He has experience in the use of drones in difficult terrains. Right from making their own planes or drones, the three have made their business self-sustainable with venture capital from national and international funding agencies.
Read more at Times of India